Philadelphia vaccine mandate: Proof of vaccination now required at indoor dining establishments

Philadelphia's new COVID-19 vaccine mandate requiring proof of vaccination for customers and staff at establishments that serve food and drink for on-site consumption is now in effect. 

The mandate, which was announced back in December in response to a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Philadelphia, includes a two week grace period where establishments may choose to accept a negative test from the last 24 hours in lieu of proof of vaccination. 

Come Jan. 17, negative tests will no longer be accepted and everyone must have completed their primary series of vaccinations - one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or two doses of Moderna or Pfizer.  

The mandate also allows some extra time for children ages 5-11 and employees to get vaccinated. The city is asking that those groups have a first dose by Jan. 3 and a second dose by Feb. 3.

In addition to the mandate, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole recommends paying close attention to your mask when attending indoor events. 

"Pay very close attention to your mask. This would be a great time to wear an N95 or certainly, at least to double mask, with cloth mask over a surgical mask. There is just a tremendous amount of COVID circulating Philadelphia right now.," Bettigole said. "You can pretty much guarantee there will be multiple people in there that do have COVID and don't know it yet."

Where does the vaccine mandate apply? 

The mandate applies to places where patrons can eat together indoors, like restaurants, bars, sports venues that serve food, catering halls, and movie theaters. Exemptions include schools, day cares, grocery stores, hospitals, convenience stores, and soup kitchens that serve vulnerable populations.

Below is a full list of establishments that serve food that are subject to the mandate:

  • Indoor restaurant spaces
  • Cafes within larger spaces (like museums)
  • Bars
  • Sports venues that serve food or drink for onsite consumption
  • Movie theaters
  • Bowling alleys
  • Other entertainment venues that serve food or drink for onsite consumption
  • Conventions (if food is being served)
  • Catering halls
  • Casinos where food and drink is allowed on the floor
  • Food court seating areas should be cordoned off and have someone checking vaccine status on entry to the seating area

Bettigole said the mandate will apply to the Wells Fargo Center or other indoor sporting venues where people buy food and eat it in their seats. The rules will not change for now at outdoor sporting events, but will apply to indoor areas and businesses inside Lincoln Financial Field and similar venues.

The mandate does not apply in the Philadelphia International Airport, except in traditional seated restaurants or seated bar-style locations. 

Who is exempt from the vaccine mandate? 

The requirement does not apply to people who are exempted from vaccination including children under 5, or people with proven medical or religious exemptions, Bettigole said.

But those with exemptions and children between 2 and 5 years old will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test taken within 24 hours to enter establishments that seat more than 1,000 people covered by the requirement. That includes sports venues, movie theatres, bowling alleys or spaces like museum cafes inside of larger venues.



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